“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Matthew 23:37 (ESV)
I present this text for Mothers Day this Sunday. In the mouth of Jesus, I find it to be one of the most heart-rending expressions in the Bible, as well as perhaps the most maternal image God uses for Himself.
In this season full of wonderfully beautiful, tender and heartfelt expressions of love between mother and child, I chose this very deliberately.
Here’s why. ======
I keep encountering mothers, and sometimes children, who experience this day with deep anguish and longing. Its approach on the calendar is met with growing dread, until at last it is past, and the evil wrestled back into some dark hiding place until next year. It growls, it moans in the dark hours of the night, but this is its season of terror. As a man, I don’t think I can fully understand it, although I do get hints; the best I can do is describe what I see.
I of course speak of those where the maternal bond has been ripped apart, either by death or by decision and dysfunction. Sometimes, the wound is clean, and heals well, but it is still a wound that goes to the bottom of the soul. But other times, the wound was not a cut, but a ripping, violent tear that makes its presence known by the jagged edges and torn shreds of what should have been this most life-giving of all relationships.
I am not nearly a good enough man, or even a good enough listener, to understand how healing is to be found. I do, however, know that it exists; I have seen it. I have, and you have, known women who have experienced this deepest loss, and have come out the other side. I stand in awe, and praise God.
All this is no less true where the loss is not the result of death, but of estrangement. And for this point I don’t care one bit about “Whose fault” (Vile words!) the estrangement is. The longing, and the hurt, is no less. The pain may scream “Why!” but I’m not sure it really wants to know. Whatever the reason, the pain claims that it is not good enough. The pain screams “Why” so that God may hear that “His reasons” are not good enough. Not nearly good enough. Not for this.
All I can offer, is that He knows.
He’s been there. “How often I would have gathered your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
And that is all I can offer.
But this I do know: that whether you have broken through into life, or if you are still screaming in pain at God, while He just sits silently with you (after all ,what CAN He say?), listening to your pain, and grieving with you; You deserve to be honored this day. No matter “who caused what.”
All of you bear this pain because of something you gave. Life.
You gave of your own life, in a way no man can ever understand even dimly, unless he listen very, very closely (and most of us don’t); even when we do, we get only a dim view and partial understanding.
And so I praise you. I praise God, with whom you alone out of humanity share this gift and pain.
I pray for you, Mrs. L from my youth, Mrs. B., Mrs. S., Mrs H, the many bereaved mothers I have met in my work, including esp. Mrs. B. in Sugar Land, and others. And I pray as I believe, that God will comfort the wounds, and will hold you close to his heart; that with his own mother, blessed Mary, he will give you joy for ashes, and heal this and all things.
And I ask the rest of you to join me in that prayer, and especially that you contemplate how you may not just join me in the prayer, but may join God in its fulfillment.
Amen. and Thank you.